Practising What We Preach

Promoting kaitiakitanga through an environmental management system.

Iwi Māori have an ancestral relationship with the natural environment that is fundamental to identity and frames a set of obligations commonly expressed under the mantle of kaitiakitanga.

Giving effect to kaitiakitanga across an organisation can involve:

  • Embedding kaitiakitanga into organisational processes and practices (Read on)
  • Upholding kaitiakitanga values in environmental management and advocacy (e.g. in RMA processes)(See Tribal Programmes)
  • Respecting and giving effect to kaitiakitanga values in commercial operations (See Commercial Activities)

Kaitiakitanga and Environmental Management Systems

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a practical way of embedding kaitiakitanga in an organisation’s processes and practices. The strength of an EMS is that it creates a systematic approach to identifying, measuring and monitoring an organisation’s environmental impact. While the Tribal Programmes section of this site explores practical tools for measuring positive environmental strategies and initiatives; an EMS typically focuses on decreasing the negative impacts of an organisation.

An EMS typically applies to two aspects of an organisation:

  • The operational processes – the ‘running the office’ impacts, for example, the amount of energy, paper, waste produced by the organisation conducting its’ core business; and
  • The production of commercial goods and services – which includes the impacts of packaging, fuel and transport or water quality implications arising from the production of goods and services.

An EMS commonly involves:

  • Identifying the environmental impacts of an organisation (across both the office and commercial functions)
  • Creating policies to ensure that all environmental impacts are systematically identified, measured and reduced
  • Benchmarking the current status of the environmental impact of office and commercial operations
  • Creating objectives and targets for reducing environmental impacts
  • Creating an action plan to realise those objectives and targets
  • Implementing a periodic review process to continually improve performance

All EMSs need to be developed specifically for the organisation, but there are New Zealand and international frameworks that can provide assistance (see below).

Identifying Environmental Impacts

Identifying environmental impacts is a practical brainstorming exercise to identify how the organisation, in both its office functions and commercial affairs, intersects with the environment. Some of the standard environmental impacts include:

  • energy use, and the amount of renewable and non-renewable sources
  • the amount of waste produced or recycled by the organisation
  • water used, discharged, recycled
  • direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions
  • impact of products including packaging, transport and post-consumer recycling
  • the amount of renewable versus non-renewable materials used

There are various tools available to help identify environmental impacts, and frameworks have been developed to verify  reporting and performance standards.

Global Reporting Initiative

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international reporting framework that has produced Sustainability Reporting Guidelines known as the G3. The G3 includes a section with indicators on the environmental impact of organisations that could help with brainstorming. The G3 environmental indicators, with guidance about methodology and data sources are available at www.globalreporting.org

ISO 14000 family

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has developed a suite of standards for environmental performance management. The ISO 14004:2004 standard is dedicated to environmental management systems, and the various other standards in the 14000 family are all related to environmental impact. The benefit of using ISO standards is that they are internationally recognised, comprehensive, clear and have an assurance framework so that performance can be verified. ISO standards are also quite challenging to comply with, and it costs a modest amount to obtain the resources to develop the system (approx $220NZ). More information on the ISO standards can be found  at the ISO web site.


The EnviroMark is a New Zealand certification system for environmental management systems (EMS). The system is modelled on the ISO standard, but is more accessible as it has different levels of certification/achievement. This allows organisations to enter the system and progress through the levels of certification as they continue to lessen their environmental impact. EnviroMark could help Iwi and Māori organisations to identify their impacts and develop an action plan for progressive improvement. EnviroMark was developed by Landcare New Zealand Ltd. More information is available at www.enviro-mark.co.nz.

EMS Policies

The key content of an EMS policy typically includes:

  • The mission and core values relating to the environment. For Iwi and Māori organisations, this could include recounting histories and traditions associated with the rohe/takiwā and the associated values; and
  • The specific commitments the organisation has made to act consistently with the values associated with the environment.

To be comprehensive, and potentially compliant with the New Zealand and international frameworks, the policy should include:

  • The known and foreseeable impacts of the organisation on the environment
  • The framework for setting environmental objectives and targets, which could provide for a connection back to the environmental values of the organisation.
    • For example, the policy could state that objectives and targets pertaining to water quality will be determined according to the traditions, values and histories of the Iwi/hapū. That is  objectives and standards for the use of water will be set according to the traditions and values associated with the cycle of water between Ranginui and Papatuanuku; the tears of Ranginui falling and becoming the lifeblood of Papatūānuku, flowing through streams, lakes and rivers to the ocean where it returns to Ranginui, and the cycle repeats.
  • Commitment to comply with environmental laws and regulations, which for the mainstream frameworks encompasses governmental instruments, but Iwi and Māori organisations could also commit to complying with the tikanga/kawa of the Iwi/hapū as contained in oral histories and the various documents that contain those standards, such as Iwi Management Plans
  • Commitment to continual improvement, which sets out the organisation’s commitment to progressively reduce the environmental impact of the organisation and be innovative in pioneering new approaches to contemporary expressions of kaitiakitanga
  • Further specific commitments which are relevant to the organisation and/or the frameworks that organisation wishes to adopt. For the ISO standard, organisations need to make specific commitments to;
    • reduce pollution,
    • document and implement their environmental policy and
    • communicate their environmental policy to staff and the wider public.

The policy should also be adopted by the governing board so compliance is mandatory across the organisation. The policy should be supported with responsibilities assigned to particular roles and performance of those responsibilities should be continually  monitored and reported.


Benchmarking environmental impact is  necessary to set effective and realistic targets. Initially the organisation needs to set internal benchmarks of performance to ascertain the current levels of carbon emissions, waste to landfill or amount of recycled materials used. As performance improves organisations may wish to consider benchmarking their performance against comparable organisations or known leaders in environmental performance and management.

Benchmarking tools include:

  • Get Sust – which is an online assessment tool created by the Sustainable Business Network that enables companies to evaluate their energy, waste, transport, purchasing and workplaces. www.getsustonline.org.nz
  • Carbon Calculators – there are a number of online tools available to calculate carbon emissions, including:
    • ACE Carbon Calculator – the Annual Carbon Emissions (ACE) calculator developed by CATALYST R&D Ltd and available without cost. More information can be found at www.catalystnz.co.nz
    • carboNZero calculator – available for SMEs, households, travel and tourism businesses and schools. Developed by Landcare Research, it  is also connected to a certification programme (see below).
      More information can be found  at www.carbonzero.co.nz/calculators/

Creating Objectives and Targets

EMS objectives and targets should apply to all identified environmental impacts of an organisation. Objectives should set clear and motivating goals, and targets should provide clear indicators for measuring success. Necessarily, objectives and targets will be specific to the organisation. By way of example:

Objective Target
To progressively work toward the
organisation producing zero waste
Office Processes:

  • X reduction in waste per office employee within X period
  • X% recycling of paper used in office processes within X period
  • X% increase in organic materials to compost within X period
  • etc

Commercial Products and Services:

  • X% increase in incorporation of recycled materials into product packaging/promotional materials
  • X% increase in post-consumer recycling initiatives
  • etc
To progressively work toward the
organisation being carbon neutral/positive
Office Processes:* X% reliance on renewable sources of energy

  • etc

Commercial Products and Services:

  • X% carbon emissions offset through positive carbon sequestration
  • X% reduction in fuel consumption involved in transport functions
  • etc

Frameworks can provide further guidance on the types of targets that organisations can and should set. However, organisations know themselves best and creating an internal project team should provide most of the brainpower needed to workshop possible objectives and targets. More than expertise, setting targets takes time and dialogue to identify the things that matter most to the organisation, and to the people the organisation exists to serve.

Possible Partners

There are a number of organisations in New Zealand that are working on environmental management systems and sustainability reporting. It may be possible to find partners to work with to both lessen the cost and increase the learning opportunities. Some of the organisations Iwi and Māori may wish to approach include:

  • Manaaki Whenua (Landcare NZ) – which has pioneered many of the relevant tools and NZ accreditation frameworks
  • Local government – a number of local governments have partnered with Manaaki Whenua to develop an EMS, and it may be possible to partner with the local district or regional council to explore mutual piggy backing opportunities
  • Business – a good proportion of big business in New Zealand is working on their sustainability practices, including SOEs. If Iwi and Māori organisations have established relationships with businesses working in the field, it may be possible to explore a partnering arrangement.

Further Work

The New Zealand and international frameworks are helpful resources drawn from extensive research and are developed to a sophisticated and detailed level. However, they are arguably more monodimensional than a kaupapa Māori approach in that they don’t encompass the living relationship between people and the whenua. It may be that Iwi and hapū identify further aspects of environmental protection that ought to be measured and managed. There may be merit in developing a template for a  kaupapa Māori approach that takes into account the extra environmental dimensions of how Iwi and Māori organisations operate. That template  could then be further adapted by specific organisations.

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